Now Eaton is Developing Affordable Natural Gas Home Refueling Station

Just last Wednesday we read GE was working on home natural gas refueling, and it would appear competition is heating up in this arena.

Then on Friday, Eaton Corporation also announced it will develop an affordable home refueling station for natural gas vehicles. It will utilize existing natural gas sources in the home and innovative compressor technology, the company says, to deliver the alternative fuel safely and efficiently to vehicles.

The effort is funded in part by a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The goal is to develop a production prototype for refueling stations that will retail for about one tenth the cost of currently available systems.

The development project will be led by Eaton’s Innovation Center teams in Southfield, Mich., and Milwaukee and the Advanced Hydraulics group in Eden Prairie, Minn. Teams will draw on Eaton’s expertise in hydraulic component and systems design and experience gained through development and installation of thousands of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in public and residential spaces across the country.

“Innovative projects like these have the potential to make natural gas vehicles more affordable and convenient for every American family and revolutionize the way we commute,” said Dane Boysen, director of the Department of Energy’s Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE) program. “My hope is that these advanced technologies will enable us to use our abundant domestic supply of natural gas for transportation, diversifying our nation’s fuel and refueling portfolio for the future.”

Eaton will collaborate with the University of Minnesota on thermodynamic analysis and modeling to enable the efficient transfer of heat in the compression process. The refueling system will use liquid, which acts as a piston, to compress natural gas. According to Eaton, innovative heat exchanger technology will improve efficiency and cut cost dramatically.

“With the development of this breakthrough compressor and refueling system, Eaton will remove an important barrier to increased use of natural gas-powered cars and trucks,” said Chris Roche, vice president, Innovation Center, Corporate Technology. “Eaton has a wealth of experience in applying our power management technology to solve the world’s toughest hydraulic, electrical and mechanical problems. This project presents an exciting opportunity to find a safe, efficient and sustainable way to harness a critical alternative fuel source.”

Current natural gas refueling systems cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Eaton expects that its prototype will be available before the end of 2015 with a target production price of $500, a target set by ARPA-E.

Eaton’s follows one made by GE July 18for a competing project of the same nature.